Missed out on 'one last duet' - Olive Lewin's daughter,public figures reflect on the life of late cultural icon

Published: Friday | April 12, 2013 Comments 0
Miss Olive Lewin.
Miss Olive Lewin.
2006: Dr Olive Lewin (right) of the Jamaican Folk Singers speaks with another member of the folk group as they look at the group's 'Pepperpot' album.
2006: Dr Olive Lewin (right) of the Jamaican Folk Singers speaks with another member of the folk group as they look at the group's 'Pepperpot' album.
1974: Olive Lewin, leader of the Jamaican Folk Singers addressing a conference.
1974: Olive Lewin, leader of the Jamaican Folk Singers addressing a conference.

Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer

Johanna Lewin, daughter of the late folk icon Olive Lewin, yesterday described her mother as one who "made a lot of sacrifices" in order to preserve the country's heritage for future generations.

A day after her mother's passing, Johanna, who conceded that the family is having difficulty coming to terms with news of her passing, said one of her regrets was that she never got to play "one last duet" with her mom who had a profound passion for music.

"She had dementia so she wasn't in a condition to play as much as she used to and I regret that we weren't able to play a duet together. I remembered that when I was at the hospital (with her)," she said.

"I really wish I had the opportunity to play another piano duet with her. We used to play duets a bit and it was my regret when she couldn't play anymore," she said through tears yesterday.

She added that even in the midst of her passing, the late culture icon maintained the dignity for which she was well known.

"I will remember her dignified struggle to breathe in the last few weeks of her life. She maintained her dignity throughout."

Johanna described her as a hard-working and dedicated woman who was "so much in love with the people, the music and culture".

"She dedicated her life to that."

Remembered for discipline

Broadcast journalist and communication consultant Fae Ellington, in recounting her time working with Olive Lewin, added that she would always be remembered for the application and discipline she put into whatever task she was undertaking.

"I worked with Dr Lewin ... as a member of the Jamaican Folk Singers. It was a dynamic year. She left an indelible mark on my life and perhaps it is best described by her quotation I often used with students and others I try to inspire: "You don't practise till you get it right, you practise till you can't get it wrong."

Ellington said: "She is somebody who has made a mark on the landscape of Jamaica."

Yesterday Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in paying tribute, said the passing of Lewin has left "a great void in the pursuit and preservation of Jamaica's traditional music and cultural art form".

The prime minister added that for more than six decades Lewin remained at the forefront of the process of researching, performing and teaching traditional folk music and theatre.

She recounted that she was one who was always engaged in the search for knowledge and committed to keeping Jamaica's traditional music form alive.

Simpson Miller recounted her tenure as head of the Jamaica Memory Bank Project in the 1980s, during which time she undertook the task of recording, transcribing and preserving traditional stories.

"We honour and salute the outstanding contribution of this most beloved Jamaican patriot and sister who, not only distinguished herself locally but across the region and internationally," she said.

Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna, in her tribute, said Lewin's passing was a "monumental loss to the nation and its people".

Work reverberates

She said Lewin's work as musicologist, social anthropologist, author and founder/director of the Jamaican Folk Singers still reverberates across the Jamaican society and throughout the world.

"Dr Lewin has been as prolific as she has been passionate and tireless in her work which spans many decades and embraced several facets of Jamaican life," Hanna said.

"On behalf of the Government of Jamaica, the Ministry of Youth and Culture and in my personal capacity, I extend heartfelt condolences to her family. A grateful nation grieves with them in this their moment of loss. Her passing is indeed an enormous loss not only for her family, friends and colleagues, but indeed for the entire nation," Hanna said.

"I am shocked, saddened and emotionally shaken," was how opposition spokesperson on youth, sports, gender affairs, entertainment and culture, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange responded yesterday to the news of her passing.

"When you think of Dr Lewin, you think of her as being perpetual because of the aura she carried, that of a true patriotic Jamaican, dedicated to culture and the arts. Words cannot fully convey the high esteem with which I regard her and the contribution she has made to my personal development and that of numerous others," Grange said.

"She gave of herself fully and Jamaica owes her tremendously for her work in preserving and promoting Jamaican culture. The entire Jamaica Labour Party movement extends condolences to the family and friends of Dr Lewin and may they be assured that her life's work and memory will live on in the minds of Jamaicans for years to come," Grange said.

nedburn.thaffe@gleanerjm.com

"Dr Lewin has been as prolific as she has been passionate and tireless in her work which spans many decades and embraced several facets of Jamaican life."

- Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture 

"When you think of Dr Lewin you think of her as being perpetual because of the aura she carried, that of a true patriotic Jamaican, dedicated to culture and the arts."

- Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, opposition spokesperson on youth, sports, gender affairs, entertainment and culture

"She is somebody who has made a mark on the landscape of Jamaica"

- Fae Ellington, Broadcast journalist and communication consultant

"I will remember her dignified struggle to breathe in the last few weeks of her life. She maintained her dignity throughout."

- Daughter Johanna Lewin

"We honour and salute the outstanding contribution of this most beloved Jamaican patriot and sister who, not only distinguished herself locally but across the region and internationally."

- Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

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